6 takeaways from Chiefs’ Week 3 loss to Chargers

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Another devastating loss early in the Kansas City Chiefs’ season sees them with a losing record for the first time in what feels like forever. Back-to-back one-score losses have fans, players, and coaches reeling. They’re all still looking for answers after back-to-back losses.

With so much that went wrong, this game was a surprise in the positive momentum Kansas City built in the second half, despite their inability to capitalize on a late-game lead. Their defense remains porous, but they got very little help from the prolific offense that has traditionally carried the load for the Chiefs in close games. Even though the outcome wasn’t what many had in mind when the final whistle blew, Kansas City showed some fight, and their season is far from over.

Here’s what we saw when the Chiefs played the Chargers in Week 3:

Mahomes' interceptions doomed Kansas City late

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Any of the discourse surrounding Patrick Mahomes' previously stellar September record has been dashed in the wake of two tough losses to start 2021. Expectations have been at an all-time high for Mahomes this season, and though he's looked largely effective early, three brutal interceptions over the last two games have put the Chiefs in some tough spots. Against Baltimore, a doing-too-much throw gave Lamar Jackson the ball and a score in the third quarter. In this week's game, a fourth-quarter pick sealed Kansas City's fate with just minutes remaining. Mahomes has been one of the NFL's most accurate passers since taking over the starting role in 2018 and has largely made protecting the football a hallmark of his game. While fans will forgive the MVP for a couple of tough interceptions in crucial moments, if turning the ball over becomes a trend rather than an anomaly, it could make this season a drag and doom the Chiefs' Super Bowl aspirations.

Run defense improves, but Chiefs were lacking against the pass

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Holding running back sensation Austin Eckler to just 55 yards on 11 carries as the league's worst run defense is a worthy accomplishment, but Kansas City got absolutely exposed against the pass in this game. Reigning rookie of the year Justin Herbert played his heart out on the road, and he deserved to win the game after picking apart the defense with relative ease. Herbert got the benefit of a Downy-soft Chiefs' defense to go 26-of-38 for 281 yards and four touchdowns without throwing an interception. Kansas City was without starting cornerback Charvarius Ward and pass-rusher Frank Clark, but this performance will do little to move the needle on their reputation as one of the weakest defenses in the NFL. Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will need to do some serious soul-searching in the coming weeks to justify his crucial position on a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. Rarely do teams with failing defenses make deep runs in the playoffs, and in order to have any shot at their end goal, Kansas City will need to get a grip defensively and figure out how to get stops quickly.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire fumbles again, but bounces back overall

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Another game, another back-breaking fumble by the Chiefs' former first-round pick. Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been one of Kansas City's most enigmatic players since being drafted by the team in 2020 and has yet to harness the abilities he showed at LSU in the pro game. His second-quarter fumble against Los Angeles was just the second of his career after the game-defining moment last week against Baltimore. But this fumble was all the more frustrating to witness in real-time. Hailed as the best back in his draft class, Edwards-Helaire was supposed to be the next big thing for Kansas City out of the backfield but has struggled mightily to find his footing for the team through three games this season. His effort today marked the third time he went over 100 yards rushing in his career. A crucial receiving touchdown made the fumble less egregious by the end of the matchup, but he'll still need to improve to be the guy Brett Veach thought he was coming out of college.

Quiet game from Chris Jones leaves Chiefs' pass rush listless

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

The Chiefs' experiment using Chris Jones as a defensive end has led to mixed results to start their season, but his performance against the Chargers was downright pitiful. Registering just one hurry and two total tackles, one of which was for a loss, Jones was a non-factor in this game. Bookend Frank Clark on the other side of the defensive line is battling hamstring injuries that kept him out of this game and the home opener against Cleveland, but the absence is no excuse for Jones to be as irrelevant as he was against Los Angeles. Kansas City desperately needed to generate a pass rush in this game, and their only sack came from Mike Danna who started in Clark's place in a rotational role. Veteran Alex Okafor got involved with a hurry in limited snaps, which raises questions about what caused Jones to disappear in such a critical game. Is his wrist injury more significant than is being let on or has the switch to defensive end ruined the Chiefs' biggest defensive difference-maker?

Tyreek Hill contained for second week in a row

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It's not often that teams are able to shut out the league's most electric receiver, but the Ravens and Chargers seem to have built gameplans to mitigate his contributions that are effective and deadly for Kansas City's hopes of sustained success. A major part of the prolific offensive performances that have characterized Chiefs football for years now is the pick-your-poison quandary their offense puts opponents in between the talent of Hill and Travis Kelce to contend with every week. It seems a solution has been found, and without some kind of recourse on the part of Andy Reid or Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City is bound to lose more games. For two weeks in a row now the Chiefs' offense has looked flat, lacking the potential for explosion Hill brings to every down he's on the field, and the results speak for themselves.

Red zone defense remains Chiefs' major malfunction

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

One thing that absolutely cannot get worse for the Chiefs is their red zone defense, which has been the most ineffective phase of their game to start the season. Opponents have scored touchdowns on 12 of 13 trips inside the 20-yard line, with the only exception to the streak being a field goal they managed to hold Los Angeles to in this matchup. The coaching staff said they emphasized tightening up in the red zone as their main focus in the offseason, and if that was truly the case something went seriously wrong to cause the team to be this bad to start the season. It was an issue last year and remains the biggest concern for the defense heading into their game against Philadelphia next week. If they don't get it figured out, they'll be lucky to get a wild card spot for the playoffs, and could be totally irrelevant by midseason.

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